It took less than one game — the most important part of it, at that — for the Seattle Seahawks to feel the sting of Kam Chancellor’s holdout dragging into their regular season.
Not that Pete Carroll would admit to thinking about that following Sunday’s 34-31 overtme loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday to begin the 2015 season.
“That’s not where my focus is now,” Seattle’s coach said. “We had a lot of aspects of this game where we could have played better football. And we are going to try and clean that stuff up.”
Three aspects to clean before this weekend’s challenge at Green Bay: Communication in pass coverage, tackling and, ultimately, simply being able to stay on one’s feet.
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Seattle had mixed-up coverages and missed tackles early. After a 20-yard catch and run by a left-alone Ram in the first quarter, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Cary Williams were gesturing and talking to linebacker K.J. Wright. Sherman tapped the side of his helmet as if to say to Wright, “Think!”
Carroll spent much of the first half during offensive time outs at the bench talking to Dion Bailey, Chancellor’s fill-in at strong safety.
The Rams saved isolating a receiver against Bailey for when they absolutely had to have a completion. The 2014 practice-squad rookie making his first career start because Chancellor was at home, sacrificing a $267,467 game check.
It was third down and 5 for St. Louis at the Seattle 37 with 58 seconds remaining in regulation. The Seahawks led, 31-24, after 18 unanswered points in the quarter. Lance Kendricks split wide left. Bailey, a college linebacker at USC, was assigned as the strong safety to the tight end on the play. He went out one on one with Kendricks.
Rams quarterback Nick Foles didn’t look anywhere else.
Foles took a shotgun snap then lofted a ball deep down the left sideline. Kendricks got an outside release immediately past Bailey. Bailey fell over his own feet trying to turn and run. Kendricks caught the ball alone at the 5 and jogged into the end zone as Seahawks cornerback Cary Williams tried in vain to get over to him.
Game tied. Chancellor’s absence absolutely noticed.
Bailey wasn’t awful. Two plays earlier he had made an open-field tackle that held the Rams to a 5-yard gain and forced them to use a time out. He finished with four tackles.
But he wasn’t Chancellor.
“I got to go 100 percent on my opportunities, and I missed a big one today,” Bailey said. “I’m going to learn from it and represent my family name better next week.”
He knows the likelihood Chancellor suddenly shows up before then seems miniscule. Sunday was the 46th day of his impasse with the team.
Another option Seattle has before Aaron Rodgers and the Packers throw at them: starting DeShawn Shead. Listed as a cornerback and more experienced as a coverage guy, Shead was the first-team fill-in for Chancellor into mid-August until Seattle chose Bailey for his tackling ability.
Many Seahawks veterans, including All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, beaten for the pass in overtime that lead to St. Louis’ deciding field goal, talked to Bailey after Kendricks’ score.
“Just everyone letting me know, don’t put the game on myself, a lot of people made mistakes and just to get better from it,” Bailey said.
“It’s a tough situation for me right now. But I will move on and I will get better. And I will be better next week.”
The first time rookie Tyler Lockett touched the ball in a regular-season NFL game, he took back St. Louis’ first punt for a zooming 57-yard touchdown. It was Seattle’s only touchdown through three quarters. Without it the Rams would have been leading 24-6 entering the final period.
It was the Seahawks’ first punt return for a score since Nate Burleson went 94 yards against Cleveland on Nov. 4, 2007.
Lockett scored on a 103-yard kickoff return in his first exhibition game last month and a 67-yard return of a punt in the third exhibition.
The third-round draft choice for whom Seattle traded three picks to move up and get in May just shrugged over his wowing debut.
“I consider this my fifth game,” Lockett said. “I got used to this all last month, so this is nothing new to me.”
BIZARRE ALL AROUND
The strangeness of Sunday’s most bizarre play was compounded by confusion among the officials.
When Seahawk kicker Steven Hauschka flubbed a short kickoff to begin overtime, officials initially ruled a Rams recovery at midfield. Then it became a penalty on the Rams.
That would have allowed the Seahawks a chance to re-kick it and, presumably, right their wrong and boot it deeper to pin the Rams in worse field position.
“Originally, one of the officials said the ball had been kicked into the ground,” referee Jeff Triplette told pool reporter Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
If the ball had been kicked into the ground before being caught, a fair catch would be illegal. When another official said the ball had not touched the ground before reaching the receiver, it was ruled the Rams’ ball with no penalty.
After the game, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made it clear that it was not an attempted onside kick but a misplaced kick by Hauschka, which was intended to go further downfield.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher opined, correctly, that if officials ultimately ruled the fair catch by St. Louis’ Bradley Marquez was valid, Seattle should have been penalized 15 yards for hitting him after that catch.
But by then, the officials were beyond confused.
Yes, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch wore his own No. 24 for the game, three days after he wore Chancellor’s No. 31 during practice in Renton as a statement of support for the team leader’s holdout. … The Seahawks made rookie offensive linemen Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli inactive. That meant Alvin Bailey was the only backup guard and tackle, with Patrick Lewis the backup center on an active roster with just seven offensive linemen.
Staff writer Dave Boling contributed to this report.